Move over, gin: white port and tonic is the drink of the moment

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Anna Brech

When we think of port – if, indeed we think of it at all – we have it down as a rich and rather stuffy festive drink.

Something to be imbibed after one too many mince pies at Nan’s Christmas gathering, and even then, only when all the rest of the booze options have been exhausted.

But cast aside your aspersions, because this perennial old boys’ favourite is set for a summer-time renaissance.

According to Susy Atkins, drinks writer at the Telegraph, white port is making a comeback – and we should all give it a whirl by ditching gin in favour of a refreshing P&T.

“White port is one of the great summer sundowners, simpler than fino sherry but just as refreshing,” Susy writes. “Not neat white port, you understand, but served just as they do in Portugal’s Douro Valley: a good slug in a tumbler, topped up with cold tonic with plenty of ice, bruised mint sprigs and a lemon slice.”

The concept has already gained traction among Instagrammers, who are perhaps tiring of juniper’s eternal dominance when it comes to summer-time tipples:

The idea of white port and tonic is not new – it’s been enjoyed for decades by drinkers in Portugal, the birthplace of fortified wine. And it provides something a little unexpected compared to the usual slug of gin.

“The subtle flavours of creamy nuts, lemon and orange peel and white pepper are certainly different,” notes Susy.

White port has a lower alcohol content than our go-to summer spirit, too. It’s about 20% less abv, so you can pack more in before a hangover comes calling.

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White port has been produced in Portugal’s Duoro valley for centuries, and Britain has a long relationship with the drink.

In the 17th Century, English wine merchants began venturing down the Douro river in search of fine concoctions.

This was helped by England’s ongoing conflicts with France at the time. The Royal Navy blocked French ports, and the export of wine was halted – so Britons had to look elsewhere for their vino.

In order to help port survive the long and treacherous sea voyage back to England, merchants added brandy to it, which increased its strength and stopped it spoiling.

This is different to the technique used in modern-day fermentation of port but the outcome – sweet, fortified wine – is pretty the same.

Nowadays,  “although there are aged white ports, the majority are meant to be drunk young,” says the Guardian.

They “range from crisp dry wines, perfect to serve with tonic, ice and lemon or as a chilled accompaniment to seafood, to sweeter versions, which are excellent with desserts”.

So, where to start with your very own P&T?

Look to a classic bottle of the good stuff, such as Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port or Quinta de la Rosa Extra Dry White Port.

Mix with a good-quality tonic – think Fever Tree or Fentimans. Garnish with lemon, orange or a spring of mint and, Felicidades!

Your summer cocktail has arrived.

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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